Oceans – Sustainable Development Goal




DRAFT #4 , VER 6 – 23 JANUARY 2014

The oceans and coastal regions forming part of the oceans ecosystems are rich in resources which provide contribute not only livelihoods for coastal marine communities but also global food sovereignty and food security. The International Programme on the State of the Oceans (IPSO) acknowledges a situation far worse than the conclusion reached by the UN Climate Change Panel of the IPCC, in that the ocean is absorbing much global warming and dealing with unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide. This international panel of marine scientists warns that the cumulative impact of these changes, and increased levels of deoxygeneation caused by coastal nutrient run-off, combine to produce what is described as the ocean’s “deadly trio” of threats. Revised figures are far graver than previous estimates , 2 and the IPSO has called for an urgent halt to ocean degradation.3 If ignored, we would lose the protective shield the ocean provides against the worst effects of accelerating climate change by absorbing excess CO2 and heat from the atmosphere.

The Women’s Major Group on Sustainable Development and the Post2015 Development Agenda therefore makes the following recommendations on Oceans and Seas to the Eighth Open Working Group on SDGs , followed by suggested indicators and targets.


THAT we reiterate the Womens Major Group unequivocal call for a “stand-­alone gender equality goal” in the post 2015 development agenda; and as a cross-cutting sustainable development priority. Addressing advancement of gender equality and human rights is central to transforming current economic, social, cultural, civic and political conditions, and should therefore be, be reflected in all negotiated outcomes. In this way, we can achieve redistribution of wealth, assets and power for social, economic and ecological justice for all. Without gender equality and human rights, the promise of health oceans, lands and air; poverty eradication; and sustainable development will remain unfulfilled.

THAT we support the call by AOSIS, (Association of Small Island States), many individual States and SIDs Interregional meetings and for a stand-alone SDG on Oceans, and inclusion of Oceans as a cross-cutting issue across all other targets and indicators;

THAT ambitious targets need to be implemented urgently, to reduce atmospheric air pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, mercury vapour, methane, POPs and other toxics because they increase greenhouse gase levels and drive up average global temperatures that cause sea level rise and threaten the existence of Small Island Developing States (“SIDS”)4 and low- lying coastal regions.

This requires strong political will on the part of both developed and developing countries. While all States suffer from climate change related issues, The Future We Want Report (2012) recognised, the special situation of SIDS who depend so greatly upon ecosystem services but also face exacerbated challenges due to small land mass; small and specialised economies, geographical isolation; relatively small populations; and costly and infrequent transportation. The smaller low-lying SIDS are worst off as they are threatened with entire loss of their homeland territories within a short timeframe.

THAT, building on the work of the ad hoc working group and before UNGA69, a negotiated decision is needed on the development of an international instrument under UNCLOS and harmonised with specific SDG targets and indicators. A specific legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in all marine environments of oceans and seas is required. It should have a legally binding status and adequate resources to allow for integrated and coordinated monitoring and enforcement for the full range of threats to ocean sustainability and for global biosphere protection, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

THAT SDGs negotiations adopt a biosphere-wide approach, which recognizes interdependence and interlinkage of atmospheric, terrestrial and marine ecosystems. In accordance with the UN Charter, UNUDHR, ICESER and UNDRIP inter alia, response and recovery plans, backed by significant trust funds, should be a prerequisite to any drilling, mining or extractive industry activities proposed, in particular on lands belonging to the state or to Indigenous Peoples. Consistent with corporate responsibility and internalization of costs, preventive measures are needed, including urgent removal from the coast and clean-up coastal refineries, shipping yards, railroads, manufacturing, chemical waste and sewage infrastructure within 3 metres above sea-level or the mean high water mark, whichever is the higher. In the case of SIDS, other protective measures and practices may be necessary to reduce hazards from infrastructure.

THAT Oceans governance needs to be strengthened by clustering multilaterally negotiated agreement on oceanic economic activities in accordance with Rio Principles and meaningful implementation of existing multilateral environmental agreements. Urgent global oversight is needed for oceanic economic activities, in particular for extractive industries. Member states represented in major global governance institutions, especially those dealing with economic, financial and trade affairs5 have been unsuccessful in ensuring that these institutions operate in a manner consistent with human rights obligations of Member States. Nor have environmentally sound practices been effectively considered. The outcomes have been economic systems that over-use oceans and lands for short-term benefits with no regard for long-term consequences, and impacts on ecosystems that have been degraded to the point where they cannot rebound from global warming, contamination and acidification.

THAT more ocean-focused scientific studies are needed at subregional, regional and global levels, on links between oceans and human health, implemented in partnership with state and NSA development stakeholders. Atmospheric mercury sources are from coal-fired power and artiisanal small-scale goldmining (“ASGM”), which is practised in more than 80 countries, many of them developing. The mercury is vapourised into the air, gets into waterways and eventually into oceans and seas. There it is transformed into methyl-mercury and ingested by fish and other marine creatures, and the humans that eat them. This research, carried out on a wide, global basis would provide missing baseline data about the extent of pollutants of the oceans and seas, with the objective of identifying and eliminating sources.

THAT implementation is needed of regional and subregional initiatives to promote sustainable conservation and management of coastal and marine resources, including achievement of Target 11 of Aichi under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Elimination of harmful subsidies that drive large-scale industrialised fishing and other marine overcapacity, banning the use of the most destructive fishing technology and practices, and combating IUU fishing;

THAT urgent measures are needed (including Means of Implementation, non-loan finances and resources) to assist all communities in SIDS and low-lying coastal communities forced by environ-mental changes to plan for relocation; to enable those affected to negotiate and implement agreements for peaceful transitions to other lands; to allow autonomous government to continue in the case of lands inundated with water; to recognise existing territorial boundaries of such States; to remind developed States of their commitments to adhere to agreed ODA levels, and for payments of Loss and Damage consistent with the agreement reached at UNFCCC COP19 Warsaw;

THAT to counter slow progress and any regressions in the UNFCCC, the SDG processes should lead the way in clarifying and highlighting the scale and urgency of climate change conditions, and setting trends toward ambitious and legally binding climate change commitments. The OWG should retain a broader macro view during the next three months of the principles, systems and processes which will underpin the SDGs and Post2015 Development Agenda , in addition to nuancing discussions on SDG goals, indicators and targets.

THAT both developed and developing countries make meaningful reductions in land-based activities that makes up the 80% of ocean pollution from wastes and nuclear contaminants. Wastes containing plastics, heavy metals, POPs and other toxic substances have resulted in gyres or ‘garbage patches’ in the oceans of the world. International cooperation is required to clean up these ‘garbage gyres’ and to prevent further dumping of wastes into the oceans through transparent and strong oceans governance provisions which include the global “high seas” . 6The plastics in these gyres threaten ecosystems, marine flora, fauna and human health because additive chemicals in the plastics break down and are released into the marine environment. Furthermore, global warming impacts on oceans render persistent organic pollutants (“POPs”) chemicals in these plastics more mobile and toxic. Slow breakdown rates of such chemicals as DDT mean that legacy chemical pollution remains. Concerns have also been raised over newer chemicals including brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated compounds, pharmaceuticals, synthetic musks used in detergents, and personal care products.

THAT both developed and developing countries strengthen ocean governance to Increase safeguards against Illegal, Unreported, Unauthorised Fishing (“IUUF”). In 2012, the UN FAO determined that 70% of world fish populations are unsustainably exploited. Of this majority, 30% have biomass collapsed to less than 10% of unfinished levels.7 The populations of SIDS and coastal regions rely on ecosystems services especially oceans for food, with 90%of artisanal fishing being for household use. Further, Pacific tuna fisheries are the last in the world fisheries that remain open, but moratoriums and closures may be needed in future to counteract IUFF including that of distant fishing nations. This further impacts the economies of SIDS who struggle to obtain fair and adequate returns from their fisheries resources.

THAT both developed and developing countries, in accordance with the Rio Principles on precaution, should impose a moratorium on experimental technology that may result in irreversible harm to the oceans. For example, experimental deep sea and seabed miningis a new and highly experimental activity for the extractive sector and ALL governments. No proven effective guidelines or standards exist with regard to environmentally sound safeguards for ocean ecosystems and ecosystem services, and ultimately human health. GeoEngineering is a term to describe the large-scale manipulation of ecosystems, including ocean fertilisation. A recent publication by ETC Group documents almost 300 projects under 10 different types of climate-altering technologies.8 We draw attentionto the de facto moratorium against ocean fertilisation established by the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (“CBD”)9. The hazards of experimental technology such as deepsea mining have not been meaningfully considered, and no safeguards are in place. Lessons learned from the Gulf oil spill mean that substantial trust funds are required to remediate or restore areas which have suffered degradation through accidents. When is it preferable to leave the minerals in the earth or seabed floor? A further issues for consideration is extraterritoriality, for example, with regard to deep ocean current systems. How does one country prevent the spread of contaminants to another country’s jurisdiction, and what consequences if it does happen?

THAT we support a moratorium on nuclear weapons processing and nuclear power plant construction;


Establish baselines, as appropriate, and monitor subsequent in changesin:

  1. levels of marine invasive species;

  2. levels of bleaching and die-off of coral reefs;

  3. extinction rates of marine flora and fauna;

Increase and measure the numbers of ecologically-sound aquaculture systems and marine protected areas, from small-scale,through to transboundary.


Measure progress on urgent reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission to the global average temperature increase to achieve below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and long-term atmospheric GHG concentrations below 350 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent levels;

Measure levels of ocean acidification using proven independent, scientific verification measures;

Use proven, independent scientific verification, and community-based programmes, where feasible, to:

(a) Measure levels of nett income earned by SIDS with regard to fisheries governance, compared to revenue of distant fishing nations.

(b) Measure, reduction of overall catch with regard to sustainable fisheries after transparentland multilateral negotiation with affected SIDS;

(c) Monitor under-reporting of fishing catch in SIDS through proven, independent, verifiable community-based research methods;

(d) Measure the extent of pollutants in oceans and seas by more ocean-focused scientific studies , at subregional, regional and global levels, on links between oceans and human health, implemented in partnership with state and NSA development stakeholders; such programmes to include sampling of human hair for uptake of mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other persistent toxic substances with special focus on SIDS, Indigenous and coastal communities who depend on and fisheries dependent communities.

1This briefing paper was elaborated by members of the Women’s Major Group on Sustainable Development, http://www.womenrio20.org/. It is based on a more comprehensive report with recommendations for the post-2015 agenda by WMG members: http://www.womenrio20.org/docs/Womens_priorities_SDG.pdf. For more information, please contact Imogen Ingram, ISAC Inc: imogenpuaingram@gmail.com and Noelene Nabulivou, DIVA for Equality, & DAWN (Assoc): noelenen@gmail.com

2 The State of the Ocean 2013: Perils, Prognoses and Proposals -Executive Summary here: http://www.stateoftheocean.org/pdfs/IPSO-Summary-Oct13-FINAL.pdf

3 The International programme on the State of the Oceans is housed at Sommerville College, Oxford University, UK: http://www.stateoftheocean.org/research.cfm

4 Small Island Developing States of the Pacific, Caribbean, Indian and Atlantic Oceans

5 These include the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Trade Organisation (WTO),

6 Mark Gold, Katie Mika, Cara Horowitz, Megan Herzog, & Lara Leitner ‘Stemming the Tide of Plastic Marine Litter A Global Action Agenda’ Pritzker Briefs; UCLA, Emmet Center on Climate Change and the Environment, October 2013: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-report-identifies-legal-shortcomings-249108.aspx

7 Ibid #1

8 The World of Engineering: ETC Maps Earth System Experimentation‘: http://www.etcgroup.org/content/world-geoengineering

9 UN Convention of Biological Diversity (“CBD”) at its Ninth Conference of the Parties in 2008 at Bonn, Germany. This moratorium was then expanded to cover all geoengineering technologies at the CBD’s Tenth Conference of the Parties in 2010 at Nagoya, Japan.


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